The President of Ukraine appointed Mikheil Saakashvili as the head of the executive committee of the national reform council of Ukraine.
“I had a long and interesting meeting with President Zelensky. The president is very determined on radical reforms and changes. I really liked his viewpoint, because the fact of my appointment shows that he is ready to take extraordinary steps, even though a huge number of people discouraged him. He was discouraged by those who want the status quo to be maintained in Ukraine, and the status quo is a swamp. Ukraine needs to be pulled out of the swamp, and this can only be done by a president who has never been a thief and never will be (I’m sure that President Zelensky is one) and who has the ambition to remain in the history of Ukraine as a person who could to do something for his people and every Ukrainian,” Saakashvili wrote on his Facebook page.
Saakashvili said that he is ready to help Zelensky as much as possible, who “perfectly understands that the country has no alternative to rapid changes.”
This happened even though the Georgian authorities, including the prime minister and president, said that it was unacceptable for them to appoint Saakashvili to any significant post in Ukraine.
In late April, it became known that Saakashvili was offered to take a position in the government of Ukraine to which fact Georgian authorities reacted strongly and regarded this action as an unfriendly step, a threat to Georgian-Ukrainian relations and promised to respond to it appropriately.
So, the country’s prime minister, Giorgi Gakharia, expressed his readiness to recall the Georgian ambassador to Ukraine if Saakashvili is appointed as deputy prime minister. Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili, in turn, declared unacceptability of appointing the ex-president of Georgia to any position in Ukraine, as this would “cause a lack of trust” between the countries.
Yes, the status of Deputy Prime Minister, which deputies of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine refused to give to Saakashvili, is more significant. Nevertheless, he was provided with access to the information space and personal contact with the President of Ukraine.
Interestingly, Zelensky made his decision despite powerful information attack of a pro-Russian media in Ukraine and Russian propaganda. This is an important signal – to appoint, albeit symbolic, the personal enemy of Putin. From the point of view of diplomacy, this is a landmark move. At the same time, Zelensky acknowledged that Ukraine considers the verdicts of Georgian courts against Saakashvili to be invalid. Zelensky left the demarches of the Georgian leadership unanswered.
The National Reform Council was created in 2014 by decree of the former President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko. As noted on the head of the state’s website, this is “a special advisory structure under the President of Ukraine on strategic planning, coordination of positions on the introduction of a unified state reform policy in Ukraine and its implementation. The last meeting was held in early March 2018.
Moreover, the staff of the council is approved by the President of Ukraine. In this case, Vladimir Zelensky does not need the approval of the Verkhovna Rada. But, on the other hand, the post of chairman of the executive committee is not what Saakashvili hoped for. He will not have real political leverage. The only prerogative that Vladimir Zelensky “knocked out” for him was that Saakashvili would have the right to take part in cabinet meetings.
Saakashvili was president of Georgia from 2004 to 2013. After the defeat in the election of his party “United National Movement” and the expiration of the presidency, he left the country and lived abroad until the ex-president of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko offered him the post of governor of the Odesa region in 2015 and granted citizenship of Ukraine.